Greg Watson, father of Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker and former South Aiken star Dekoda Watson, recalls his son making several promises throughout the years. First in eight grade, when he promised his parents they wouldn’t have to pay for college. Then when he made it his goal to make it to the NFL and, most importantly, his vow to give back to the Aiken community when he got there.

Watson made good on the first two promises and has been delivering on the latter of the three for the past two years through his Koda’s Kids Foundation.

Watson kicked off his annual weekend in Aiken with a charity auction Friday night.

“It started out as his dream, and as time went on, it became ours as well,” Greg said. “It makes us proud that he hasn’t forgot about his community.”

This year, the event was held in a bigger venue – the Aiken Municipal building – with more attendees, and Watson seemed very appreciative of the turnout for the second annual charity auction. He spoke to the crowd about his desire to keep the event growing, jokingly suggesting that it one day could rival Aiken’s Makin.

However, the highlight of the night for Watson was an Aiken-area student who received a scholarship through the Koda’s Kids Foundation stopping by the event to take a picture with him and thank him for the scholarship.

The foundation donates a $1,000 scholarship to each of the seven Aiken County high schools. The money toward education is what stands out the most to his former head coach Dan Pippin, who was on hand for the event.

“The scholarships are the big thing,” Pippin said. “He doesn’t have to give money to all the schools ... He doesn’t really have ties to any except for South Aiken. The fact he is still willing to spread it around shows what type of guy he is.”

Jeremy West, Watson’s defensive coordinator while at South Aiken, was also in attendance and echoed Pippin’s sentiments.

“To see a former player grow and be a part of the community like Dekoda has been is amazing,” West said.

The Koda’s Kids weekend will culminate with today’s camp. The camp will be held at South Aiken and runs from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. Watson’s former coaches all said the camp and foundation is about teaching more than just football.

“Dekoda’s a great guy for the kids to learn from on and off the field,” Pippin said. “He’s a guy who’s made it, and he understands he has the opportunity to affect the lives of other young people in a positive way and that’s pretty cool.

Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications